A paramedic in Florida's Polk County helped steal doses of COVID-19 vaccine meant for first responders a week before he was named "Paramedic of the Year," according to police. Joshua Colon, 31, of the Polk County Fire Rescue, was in charge of administering 30 doses of the Moderna vaccine to the county's firefighters on Jan. 6, not long before local groups honored him for his response to a highway crash, per the New York Times. He initially claimed three of the doses had to be discarded. Facing questions, however, he falsified vaccine screening and consent forms to make it appear as though the doses had been used, authorities say. He allegedly wrote down the name of a former firefighter and two fake names, one of which resembled the name of another ex-firefighter, per the AP. When contacted, the men told officials they had yet to receive the vaccine.
Three syringes had in fact been taken by one of Colon's supervisors, a fire captain, authorities say. Colon says the captain—NBC News identifies him as Anthony Damiano—asked for his subordinate's help in acquiring the vaccine for his mother, and threatened to report Colon for stealing if he wasn't compliant. Colon says he saw the syringes were missing after a break, but he didn't report the theft. "Had Joshua simply gone to his boss right then, he'd have been the hero," Sheriff Grady Judd said Tuesday, announcing felony charges of uttering a false instrument, criminal use of personal identification, creating a fictitious person, and falsifying an official record as a public servant. Damiano, who will face charges upon returning from assignment in California, allegedly told Colon where the doses could be found in a call monitored by investigators. Only two doses were found. (Read more coronavirus vaccine stories.)